Fifteen Questions for Chancellor Rhee
Since the Oct. 2 layoffs of 388 teachers and support staff, questions have persisted about the planning and decision making that led to the dismissals. Citing advice from counsel, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has declined a request to make her top financial and human resources deputies, Kaya Henderson and Noah Wepman, available for interviews, because of the pending Washington Teachers' Union lawsuit. The following is a list of questions that she says she will answer fairly soon:
1. The math underlying the number of spring/summer hires is confusing. You terminated 248 teachers in June, while at the same time you hired 934. Then you laid off 229. Can you explain how this adds up? How many retirements and resignations did you have at the end of 2008-09? What other factors drove the hiring of the equivalent of nearly one-quarter of your classroom teacher corps?
2. The Washington Teachers' Union says the 934 hires are significantly out of line with prior year spring/summer hiring. How many did you hire in spring/summer 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005?
3. Details around the $43.9 million shortfall are lacking. On Oct. 2, you said that total included the D.C. Council reduction ($20.7 million), the elimination of "additional school-level resources" that had been carried on the central office budget and $13.1 million in central cuts gained by "carefully reviewing current projects and responsibilities along with future plans." None of this adds up to $43.9 million. Please explain.
4. In your FAQ last week, the $43.9 million is described a bit differently but no less obscurely: summer reductions by the council ($20.5 million), and "additional school level resources that had been carried on the central office budget ($20.5 million). Where within that is the $13.1 million referenced on Oct. 2?
5. Please elaborate, in itemized form, on the $20.5 million in "school level resources." Is this primarily teachers? The teachers plus custodial, office and student support staff?
6. Specifically what "current projects and responsibilities along with future plans" make up the $13.1 million that was "cut centrally?"
7. Please provide a school-by-school account of the number of teacher and other staff positions eliminated.
8. In mid-June, CFO Natwar M. Gandhi revised revenue estimates for FY 2010 downward by $154.2 million. Was there any consideration given to stopping hiring at that point?
9. When, specifically, did you learn that the D.C. Council was preparing to cut $20.7 million?
10. You've said that even without the council action, you were facing some kind of RIF. How extensive would it have been and what would have been involved?
11. Please explain and differentiate what you received in Stimulus (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), Title I and IDEA funds for FY 2010. How much of the stimulus funding went into the $550 million in local school funding?
12. How were the RIF criteria developed? Who were the primary architects?
13. The new evaluation system you introduced last month, IMPACT, was designed in part to address teacher concerns that the old assessment process was too subjective and vulnerable to manipulation by principals who wanted to oust instructors for personal reasons. Yet the "school needs" section of the RIF criteria states that the scores assigned to educators should reflect the principal's "best judgment of the extent to which the person meets the particular needs of your school." Even with the time-sensitive nature of the budget shortfall, wasn't there a more objective instrument to use here?
14. How often were principal decisions on personnel reversed by the central office?
15. You've explained your reasons for wanting to do equalization and layoffs at the same time. But given the reaction you've faced, do you think in retrospect it might have been better to stagger the actions, with layoffs in August and equalization in the fall?
Washington Post editors
October 14, 2009; 10:09 AM ET
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